As a child of the cold war, Guy Corriveau says he remembers emergency drills at his local hospital in St. Boniface, Manitoba. “From time to time, the sirens would go off and big army trucks would pull up to the hospital, and out of the trucks would come simulated casualties. It was fascinating.”
For Mr. Corriveau, manager of emergency planning at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, that fascination remains. His interest in emergency response was honed during his 22 years in the Canadian Forces, assisting local authorities with forest fires, flood preparations and the like. After he left the Forces, “I decided I wanted to do this for a living.” He went back to school for a master’s degree in public administration and received certification from the International Association of Emergency Managers.
“For a while, I was the only certified emergency manager in Manitoba and one of only six in Canada,” he says. That was in 2001. “Today, there are at least 32. There’s been a huge push to professionalize this field.”
Mr. Corriveau joined Kwantlen last June. “I don’t know if I should be saying this, but the lower mainland of B.C. is a disaster theme park,” he says. The City of Richmond, where one of the university’s campuses is located (the others are in Surrey and Langley), sits on a flood plain. The nearby airport puts the area at risk for air disasters, and there’s also the ever-present threat of an earthquake.
There are also technological disasters to plan for – what he calls “a failure of systems” – and human-caused emergencies such as a pandemic, civil unrest or the nightmare “active shooter scenario.”
It’s a privilege to be an emergency planner in B.C., because “the province takes emergency planning very seriously,” says Mr. Corriveau, who is a member of the Lower Mainland Regional Emergency Planning Committee as well as the B.C. Postsecondary Emergency Planning Committee.
Emergency management is based on best practices, he says. “Every time a disaster hits, there are lessons learned.” Practice drills also play a part. Kwantlen was a participant in the Great B.C. ShakeOut held this past January to raise earthquake response awareness.
“It was a very good test. We’re a lot better off as a result of that exercise,” he says. “What we’re really trying to do is to provide a safe and ready learning environment.”